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This letter from the Chair of the PFRSNJ Board of Trustees is being sent this morning to the Certifying Officers of all PFRS locations. This letter will answer many of the questions that have been asked.

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Despite all the claims to the contrary, the criminal justice system in the United States works, even when the person accused of a crime is a police officer.  The trial and unanimous conviction on all counts of former police officer Derek Chauvin in Minnesota conclusively demonstrates that officers can be, and in fact are, held to the same standards of justice as all other citizens in our nation, as they should be.  The facts of the case surrounding the murder of George Floyd present a horrific tragedy on so many different levels.  At the most basic, a man lost his life needlessly at the hands of an officer.  At the same time, the assertions by so many who wish to demonize all police officers because of the actions of one officer have been shown to be hollow.

Due process rights do not prevent the investigation, charging, trial, and conviction of a police officer.  Neither does qualified immunity.  Neither do police unions, associations, or legal defense plans.

Police departments, unions, associations, prosecutors, and defense attorneys all have their proper role to play, and all citizens, including officers who are accused of a crime, are entitled to their day in court and to have an impartial judge and jury weigh the evidence against them.  They are entitled to have their side of the issue heard and considered.  And all of us must respect the decisions of the court system when these fundamental rules of due process are applied.

We, the men and women of this Association, serve the American criminal justice system, sometimes at the cost of our very lives.  We respect the verdict of the justice system in this case, and we continue to stand for the proposition that respecting the fundamental Constitutional rights of all persons accused of committing an offense, even when that person is a police officer, is no obstacle to the attaining of justice.  In fact, it is the very foundation upon which justice can be obtained.

The National Association of Police Organizations, founded in 1978, represents more than 241,000 sworn, rank-and-file law enforcement officers across the United States.

Governor Murphy’s office has advised us that he will today sign legislation proposed by the State PBA to reinstate the 20 and Out retirement benefit for PFRS members. The State PBA has been actively pushing the Legislature to restore 20 and Out after it was gutted by the Christie Administration. The State PBA, who drafted the bill and selected the sponsors, appreciate the support of the Governor to return fairness to our members retirement options.

We are also grateful to the bills prime sponsors - Senator Gopal, Senator Lagana, Assemblyman DeAngelo, Assemblyman Dancer and Assemblywoman Chaparro - as well as Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin who prioritized moving the bill at our request.

The legislation will reestablish 20 and Out as a retirement option for PFRS members for the next 2 years. Members who qualify during that time period will receive a pension of 50% of their final salary but with no health benefits. The 2 year window will allow the State PBA, PFRS Board and legislative leaders to study the impact of the retirement benefit on the funded level of the pension system.

At a time when law enforcement has become more hazardous, more stressful and more unappreciated as ever before, this retirement option will give a level of peace of mind to our members who have been “burned out” by the job. The State PBA will continue to prioritize protecting and strengthening the pension and benefit rights available to the law enforcement community in New Jersey and today’s bill signing is just another example of that.

The State PBA initiated bill to reestablish the 20 and Out benefit was passed in the General Assembly today.  The bill now heads to the Governor for his consideration.  We have been in contact with Governor Murphy’s office to express the need for his support for the legislation.

The bill will restore the 20 and Out PFRS benefit for 2 years after its enactment in order to assess the financial impact of the benefit on the pension system.  While we believe that this retirement option will remain infrequently, as it has been for the last 20 years, we also must ensure that anything we pursue does not negatively impact the health of the PFRS.  The long term health and growth of PFRS is of obvious critical importance.  But restoring 20 and Out now ensures fairness to provide PFRS members benefits they were promised when they become officers two decades ago.  We firmly believe that the next 2 years will prove our fiscal analysis correct that 20 and Out will have little impact on PFRS, thereby disproving the inaccurate cost estimate proposed by the League of Municipalities and Association of Counties, thus opening the door to make 20 and Out permanent.

It is important to remind PBA members that existing State Law prohibits providing employer paid health benefits to a retiree unless a member has 25 years of service.  Therefore there are no health benefits provided to officers who retire at 20 years.  But the member would receive 50% of their final salary regardless of age as a pension for the rest of their life. 

Passage of the bill was a major priority for the State PBA and we would like to thank Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin for moving the bill and our sponsors, Senator Gopal, Assemblyman DeAngelo and Assemblyman Dancer for their steadfast support.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee today released Senate Bill 1017 to restore the 20 and Out retirement benefit to PFRS. The bill has already been scheduled for final passage in the Assembly on March 1st, 2021 where, following passage, it will be sent to the Governor for his signature.

Today’s action is the final Committee step in a years long process by the State PBA to restore justice to PFRS members who had this benefit taken from them by the Christie Administration.

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